Building height controls: Darwin city

This page has information for people who want to build large, multi-storey developments in the Darwin central business district (CBD).

Unless you plan to build within the locality covered by the Darwin City Waterfront Area Plan, on the Esplanade, or anywhere on the south-western side of Mitchell Street, there are no specific rules about how tall a building can be in the CBD under the Northern Territory (NT) Planning Scheme.

Read more about the NT Planning Scheme.

However, there are Australian laws around height limitations aimed at keeping civil and defence aircraft safe when flying in and out of Darwin Airport.


Building heights that may be hazardous for military aircraft within a 15km radius of an airfield, including the RAAF Base Darwin, are controlled by laws.

Regulations state that the maximum height of a structure is 90m above ground level south-west of McMinn Street, or 45m above ground level to the north east of McMinn Street.

Read the Defence (RAAF Base Darwin Defence Aviation Area) Declaration 2018.

Get the map of Darwin CBD height limits based on Defence Aviation AreasPDF (117.9 KB).

Structures taller than the maximum height

To build or use a structure that is higher than the maximum height specified, you will need approval from the Department of Defence.

For more information go to the Australian Government's Department of Defence website.

Contact the Department of Defence by emailing or by calling 02 6266 8118.

Federal laws control any development in an airport's protected airspace. The protected airspace is made up of two sets of invisible surfaces above ground level around the airport.

These two surfaces mean there are two separate height limits over the Darwin city centre.

Obstacle limitation surfaces

Obstacle limitation surfaces, also known as OLS, control the height you are legally allowed to build at to protect aircraft flying in and out of Darwin when the pilot is flying by sight.

Procedures for air navigation services - aircraft operations surfaces

Procedures for air navigation surfaces - aircraft operations surfaces are also known as PANS-OPS. They limit the height of buildings to protect aircraft that are being flown using instrument navigation. Pilots may need to use instruments to navigate during flying conditions such as poor visibility.

Get approval for controlled activities

Any building or works within these two surfaces are a controlled activity and you must get approval for them from the Darwin International Airport.

Use the following maps to determine the surface heights for protected airspace around airports:

Unless you have met the requirements for both surfaces you will not be approved to build in the city centre.

For more information contact Darwin International Airport by emailing or calling 08 8920 1811.

To read more about protected airspaces and how to get approval to carry out a controlled activity, go to the Australian Government's Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities website.

While the height of a proposed building may be below the limits described above, cranes used during the construction of a building may infringe these limitations.

Cranes that infringe on height limitations will need approval from the relevant authorities.

Building construction methods involving cranes should be considered as early as possible in the building design phase.

The use of hammerhead or flat-top cranes is encouraged in preference to luffing cranes.

Last updated: 26 February 2020

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